BY MICHAEL KARIATI
OVER the years, Zimbabwean boxing has been going through a period of gradual decline with no heroes or role models to talk of and the sport was close to extinction due to non-availability of fights.
The only name that was spoken of a Zimbabwean on the world boxing scene was that of Charles Manyuchi, but that mention too was just in passing as Manyuchi was regarded more as Zambian since he fought his battles in Zambia under Oriental Boxing Promotions.
It was saddening to see a country that gave Africa some of its greatest fighters in the form of Proud “Kilimanjaro” Chinembiri, Stix McLoud and Arifonso Zvenyika reduced to spectators as boxers from other African countries fought for the African Boxing Union (ABU) and world titles.
It was also saddening to see boxers from a country that gave the world the great three-time Commonwealth champion, Langton “Schoolboy” Tinago, turned into punching bags and for that matter in low-key regional tournaments.
The love for quick money and the economic situation back at home forced our boxers to travel to fight without enough preparations and those in foreign lands took advantage of their situation.
Renowned boxing promoter Stalin Mau Mau of Condomat National Championships fame jokingly remarked that Zimbabwean boxers were being used as chicken fodder to add to the statistics to raise the profile of foreign boxers — and he could not have been far away from the truth.
There are many reasons why boxing sank to such low levels, one of which was the non-emergence of new talent following the disappearance of the National Foods Amateur National Championships, which were the sport’s talent breeding ground.
The Amateur National Championships helped to identify talented young boxers, who were later given the platform to develop and excel at national and international level on the professional front.
Also to disappear were big money tournaments like the Condomat National Championships ,which offered regular fights for national champions to defend their titles and for challengers to have a crack at the national belts with big monies on offer.
Gone too was the Ring Promotions Annual Boxing tournament ,which assembled boxers from all the four corners of the country at one venue for national title fights, but was last heard of in 1998.
Also out of circulation is the Zimbabwe National Army Championships, which gave rise to the likes of Nokhuthula Tshabangu, Ambrose Mlilo, Mkabela Sibangiso, Ndaba Dube and Arigoma Chiponda — among others — depriving our boxers of the platform to fight regularly.
This was not helped by the disappearance from the scene of promoters like Paul Murinye, Jeff “Captain Fiasco” Dube, Lorraine Muringi and Mau Mau himself, who match-maked boxers and organised tournaments.
Even Manyuchi himself could not find a promoter willing to assist in his dream of becoming a world champion and had no option, but to relocate to Zambia where he found that helping hand in the form of Oriental Boxing Promotions.
The good news, however, is that boxing’s revival is on the right path and Manyuchi himself has taken the first step towards getting the sport back on its feet.
Since his return from Zambia in 2017, Manyuchi has given young and talented boxers a chance under the Charles Manyuchi Academy. He has staged a number of tournaments for them and the results have been there for everyone to see.
Among his products, Brendon Denese has risen to become the World Boxing Organisation’s Africa welterweight champion while Hassani Milanzi has been offered a crack at the ABU bantamweight title.
Others like Tinashe Makoni and Tatenda Biningu are now national title holders and are waiting on the wings for their international break to come after the Covid-19 crisis.
This is a lesson for other sporting disciplines to follow and in particular football to learn that success at international level comes when the junior structures are sound.
What is even heartening is that another Zimbabwean, Tinashe Madziwane — who is not from the Manyuchi stable — is also going international and will on February 27 fight Namibia’s Nathaniel Kakololo for the ABU title.
Mau Mau has also realised that Manyuchi cannot do it alone, and has, on his part, embarked on a journey to popularise the sport among the masses.
He has taken boxing tournaments to high-density areas in towns and cities where he is holding fights without demanding gate or door entry fees.
It is refreshing to see boxing taking that route. The sport is building up its own heroes and at the same time taking huge steps to regain its popularity among the masses.
It might not be immediate, but signs are that very soon, Zimbabwean boxing will be back where it belongs — the top in Africa —that is if corporate sponsorship complements the efforts being made.
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